Book Review: Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo

February 26, 2010

The kisses in Lips Touch, Three Times are not the absent-minded pecks on the cheek, expressions of friendship kinds of kisses. The kisses in these stories are sometimes shy, but also passionate, desperate, and full of longing and expectation. They celebrate life, and they herald death. They are not for the weak of spirit.

Lips Touch, Three Times is written and illustrated by the husband and wife team, Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo. Each of the three stories creates a rich fantasy world that pulls you in so completely you may have difficulty re-entering reality when you put it down.

The stories build in length and complexity. The first, “Goblin Fruit,” is a short piece about Kizzy, a girl who so longs to be kissed, she becomes prey for the goblins. Can the spirit of her grandmother and stories of girls lost before her save Kizzy from the goblin’s kiss?

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” takes the reader to India, where Estella, an Englishwoman, enters the realm of the dead every day to bargain with a demon for the souls of dead children. The deals she strikes promises an exchange of one soul of a corrupted adult for each child’s soul returned to the land of the living. When an earthquake claims the lives of many children, Estella is able to strike a deal that brings them all back. The price she must pay is to put a curse on a newborn baby girl named Anamique, a curse that will keep her silent or condemn those around her to death. When Anamique grows up, the love of a soldier tests her ability to maintain her silence and protect the life of her love as well as that of her family.

“Hatchling” is the most elaborate and inventive tale of all, creating a world of immortals, the Druj, who long for something they can almost remember having in their now forgotten past. To while away their time they keep girls as pets, casting them off when they grow to be women. Esme and her mother Mab have escaped from Mab’s cage and lived in hiding for fourteen years when Esme’s brown eye turns blue and their entire world turns upside down. With the help of Mihai, a Druj outcast, they hope to rid themselves of the Druj queen forever.

In each story, Di Bartolo’s color illustrations beautifully enhance Taylor’s evocative words to help the tales come alive. Even non-fantasy lovers should find the stories compelling. Topics to discuss include the nature of longing, maintaining self-respect while falling in love, and having the courage to create the life you want to live. Lips Touch is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school and all readers over 14.

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Book Review: Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan

February 25, 2010

Blake has a pretty good life for a high school sophomore. He’s got a girlfriend who loves him and makes him happy, he’s got good friends, and for the most part he likes his classes in school. And he lives in a loving home with two parents and his older brother Garrett. He doesn’t give his situation much thought until he’s showing a photo assignment to his friend Marissa in class one day. When he uncovers a photo of a homeless woman passed out on the sidewalk, Marissa gasps and says, “That’s my mom.” Suddenly he’s compelled into Marissa’s life in unexpected ways and finding out that not everyone leads mundane, uneventful lives away from school.

As he’s drawn to help Marissa more and more, Blake’s relationship with his girlfriend, Shannon, becomes strained. Can he be the friend Marissa needs and the boyfriend Shannon expects at the same time?

Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan juxtaposes suburban middle-class life against the lives of the homeless and addicted. It shows the toll addiction and neglect can take not only on family members, but also on friends and others in the community around them. The book covers issues of sexual abstinence, safe sex, underage drinking, using alcohol to escape, honesty in relationships and more. It also introduces complex supporting characters that add interest to the story: Blake’s mother is a hospital chaplain, and his father is a coroner. Garrett interns at the morgue with his dad. (Their work discussions make Blake queasy and may do the same for some readers.) Marissa’s brother Gus is a thrill-seeking bike messenger who takes responsibility for his family.

Madigan lives in Portland, and I really enjoyed picking up on some of the local references in Flash Burnout. I would have liked to know more about Blake’s conflicted thoughts between his feelings for his girlfriend and his friend, particularly after a particular event near the end, and I would have preferred less description of Blake’s ordinary life. Even so, I really liked following his story, and I liked that Flash Burnout doesn’t tidy up all the answers into a nice package at the end; instead it asks the reader to consider what will happen next. I believe the issues and the characters should provide great discussions for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up. Flash Burnout is Madigan’s debut novel, and I eagerly anticipate her next book.


Interview with Judy M. Miller on Parenting Your Adoptive Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond

February 24, 2010

Judy M. Miller is an adoptive parent and adoption advocate living in the Midwest with her husband and four children. She has mentored prospective adoptive and adoptive parents for over a decade about adoption—its joys and issues. She is a member of Adoption Voices (moderating a group for parents of tween and teen adoptees), AdoptionParenting, AdoptionParentingTweens, Families with Children from China, and Our Chinese Daughters Foundation.

Judy is a columnist for the adoption network, Grown in My Heart. Her essays and articles appear in adoption and parenting magazines. Judy’s stories are featured in A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families (Adams Media), Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? (EMK Press), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom (Chicken Soup for the Soul). She recently presented on “Finding Our Stories Online” at Story Circle Network’s Stories of the Heart. Judy facilitates classes for adoptive parents of tweens and teens at Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens and Beyond.

I became acquainted with Judy last fall when she hosted me on The International Mom’s Blog. I’m happy to feature more information about her and the work she’s doing for parents of adopted children. Here she talks about a new class she’s created to help parents with their adopted tweens and teens.

What prompted you to create a class on parenting adopted children?

I was moved to create Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond for several reasons, but the main reason was that many parenting classes target waiting parents or parents who have recently adopted infants and young children.  There are few classes for adoptive parents of kids entering tweens and teens.

I created Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond because I observed the hunger adoptive parents have to connect and share with other adoptive parents. I know from personal experience that this hunger to connect with other adoptive parents never goes away and is especially needed when parenting is most challenging—before and during adolescence.

I also found that as I became a more experienced adoptive parent, I had countless requests for my “expertise” for over a decade and fell into a mentoring role for other adoptive parents and parents beginning the adoption process. I believe we glean the most from our own tribe, from collective experiences as adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents. Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond was created in this spirit.

Why teens and tweens? Why not parenting young adopted children or school-age adopted children?

Issues inherent in adoption typically begin to surface when the child realizes they are becoming independent from their parents. Questions many parents assumed had been addressed when their child was younger often resurface. Most adoptive parents aren’t aware of this or prepared for it. Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond is a class that helps the adoptive parent navigate these parental challenges, which are compounded by the complexities of adoption. I often say that parenting is not adoptive parenting. Parenting adopted children is adoptive parenting—more is required of the adoptive parent in parenting the adopted child.

Who would be helped by your class the most?

Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond is for parents who have children between the ages 6 and 18. During these years kids begin to understand what they have gained and lost by being adopted. Parents find themselves challenged with a lot of questions as in “Why did my birth mother give me up?” “What did I do to be given up?” and “Why did you adopt me?”

I even have one parent who is considering taking the class now even though both of her children are under the age of five. This parent wants to be proactive, prepared as much as she can be. She sees this class as the next step in parenting her adopted children. I think it’s always a good idea to be as informed and prepared as you can be as an adoptive parent.

Aren’t there already ample resources available on this topic?

Wonderful books, articles and resources are on parenting adopted teens are available, but reading takes time and digesting the facts takes even more. Many adoptive parents don’t have the benefit of having the “conversations” with other adoptive parents, who best understand what they and their child are experiencing. There are a few online classes for adoptive parents of adolescents, with little, if any, interaction with the other adoptive parents in the group. And, of course, there are online forums, but discussions there tend to go off on tangents and are not private.

Although I have a library of resources to draw from, my preference has always been to connect with others in the adoption community—adoptive parents, well-seasoned adoptive parents, and older adoptees for insight and perspective. So, I’ve created an e-mail class that offers the benefits of all the resources, my experiences parenting four kids, and the wisdom of the group.

If someone has never taken an e-class before, can you explain what they can expect in terms of their time commitment to the class?

I send course material out weekly via Microsoft Word Document. The workbooks cover different topics related to parenting the adopted tween/teen. The beauty of the class is that participants meet each other virtually through the class introduction and sharing of weekly class work. Participating parents do weekly assignment at their convenience, when it fits into their busy life. The weekly time commitment is only a couple of hours per week but, of course, the parents can reflect on what they are learning and discussing as much as they like. The class lasts six weeks and the class materials can be referred back to as needed in the future.

The next Parenting Your Adopted Child: Tweens, Teens & Beyond begins April 7th. Class is limited to 12 participants. Parents can find out more and register here. http://judymmiller.com/.

Judy Miller with her family


The Lightning Thief Book vs. Movie—Link to Mother-Son Review

February 23, 2010

Although Percy Jackson and the Olympians—The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is often billed as a great book for boys (which it is) my daughters have also loved it.  I’ve seen it with both girls (separately since my oldest daughter is now away at college), and they both enjoyed it. Here’s a review from a mom and her son who both read the book and went to see the movie as well. It was featured on 5 Minutes for Books. You’ll also find a great post about it (as noted in the comments here) at Pragmatic Mom.


Read My Review at Writer’s Roundabout of Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood by Melissa Hart

February 23, 2010

Today I’ve posted a review at Writer’s Roundabout for Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood by Melissa Hart.

Here’s the beginning paragraph. Click here to read the whole review on Writer’s Roundabout:

When Melissa Hart’s mother left her father to live with another woman in the 1970s, the custody decision was no surprise for the times—lesbians would not be allowed to raise three young children. Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood is Hart’s account of her life after her forced separation from her mother and through her formative years into college.


Cybils Winners for 2009 Posted

February 19, 2010

The Cybils 2009 winners are finally here, and looking over the list I’m surprised to find that I haven’t read even one of the books.  Cybils stands for Children and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards. the number of books some of these bloggers read is truly amazing. These people know their books. You’ll find awards given to everything from picture books to young adult fiction and nonfiction. Read the whole collection and decide what will go on your future reading list.


Find Book Club Info, Articles and More at BookBundlz.com

February 18, 2010

I’ve recently discovered BookBundlz.com, a website with a wealth of information for book club members. I’ll be posting articles on a regular basis, and the first one you’ll find is this one on working moms and mother-daughter book clubs. While you’re there, you can check out BookBundlz’ other features as well. While many of the recommended books are for adult groups, you’ll also find reviews of kids books, a newsletter you can sign up for and lots more. And I really love that BookBundlz has a Campaign for Literacy where it lists lots of groups both national and in individual states that are dedicated to literacy.